At the beginning of 1864, Lincoln made Grant commander of all Union armies. Grant made his headquarters with the Army of the Potomac, and put Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman in command of most of the western armies. Grant understood the concept of total war and believed, along with Lincoln and Sherman, that only the utter defeat of Confederate forces and their economic base would end the war.This was total war not in terms of killing civilians but rather in terms of destroying homes, farms, and rail roads.

Immediately, Sherman set out from Chattanooga to seize the important rail and supply centre of Atlanta, Georgia.

After a five-week siege, Union forces overwhelmed and defeated Confederate forces defending the city and Atlanta fell on September 2, 1864. General Sherman overran the city and sacked it.




He ordered all public buildings and possible Confederate assets destroyed and on November 12th, he completed its destruction by razing the entire business district to the ground. When he left Atlanta three days later to begin what is known as Sherman’s March to the Sea, he left little but a smoking shell.



Atlanta in ruins


Sherman wrote later:

Behind us lay Atlanta, smouldering and in ruins, the black smoke rising high in air, and hanging like a pall over the ruined city.


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